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You would expect the arrival of the defending Super Bowl champs at M&T Bank Stadium not only to grab the Ravens' attention on Sunday, but to elevate their game a notch or two. Even if you don't accept the theory the Ravens play to the level of the opposition, it is fact they have put away only two teams in convincing style this season. And one of those teams – the Panthers – took the Ravens into the fourth quarter before surrender.

So what to make of this inter-conference game against the New Orleans Saints? Unless the Steelers stumble in the final three games, a loss likely won't cost the Ravens the AFC North title. A loss to either the Browns or the Bengals in the final two weeks would be far worse.

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A loss to the Saints might indicate the Ravens aren't of Super Bowl quality. And whether you believe the Ravens have an "A" game or not, they still have time to find one before the playoffs. Sunday proves almost nothing except, perhaps, that the Ravens learned something in the shootout at Houston.

There is a line of thinking that says if Matt Schaub can throw for 393 yards, Drew Brees could probably throw for 500. Brees has better receivers, makes quicker decisions, and is more accomplished – he was offensive player of the year in 2008 and MVP of the Super Bowl last February.

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But a 500-yard passing game isn't going to happen because the Ravens haven't made the same mistake twice. John Harbaugh put the team in pads on the Wednesday before the Monday night game. Seemed like a good idea at the time. But the Ravens' defenders were already sucking wind in the first half at Houston, and nearly collapsed in the second half onslaught. Too late in the season for pads, coach.

So, one, they should be fresher. And two, they're not going to sacrifice pass defenders for run stoppers on defense like they did last Monday.

There is every reason to believe the Ravens will play the Saints toe-to-toe. There is every reason to feel they will have a chance in the fourth quarter to win the game. And there is every reason to wonder if they've learned anything from all their fourth-quarter travails this season.

Maybe this is what the Ravens are – an abundantly talented team that doesn't have the ability to close out a game against a top team. Or maybe that can still change. Maybe they can still be the team that Harbaugh believes them to be.

But if New Orleans doesn't bring it out of them, it's probably not there.

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